Mr. McGinty and his dog, Sophie, perform a heroic monarch rescue.
Brooke’s very first Project Based Learning experience at kindergarten just happens to center around butterflies! Project Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge. This is planned by the educator using state standards and applies real-world knowledge to academics. Her class’s driving question in their first Project Based Learning approach is “How can we, as conservationists, use a poster to explain the benefits of a butterfly garden?” It’s a collaborative effort so when Brooke’s teacher asked if we had any resources or suggestions, I was able to say, “Yes!” and point to Mr. McGinty’s Monarchs.
Mr. McGinty’s Monarchs is a story about Mr. McGinty and his dog Sophie who have always loved checking in on the monarch caterpillars and butterflies on their summer walks. However, Mr. McGinty is shocked to find that this season all the milkweed in town has been mowed down (and studies have also shown that use of herbicides has also caused the decline of the native milkweed.) Monarch caterpillars can’t survive without milkweed because it is the only place they will lay their larvae. This trend is particularly troubling because monarchs have long been considered both an indicator of our ecological health and a representative of pollinator populations. How can Mr. McGinty save the monarchs? He can build his own butterfly garden! Mr. McGinty’s Monarchs is not only an informative story for children, it goes a step further to talk about how people can take action and make a difference in the ecosystem.
Mr. McGinty’s Monarchs has a strong story line that talks about the monarch butterfly life cycle for very young readers and listeners. In the back of the book, it shows the monarch life cycle, a variety of other butterflies, a few children’s drawings, and a ticket to a zoo butterfly pavilion. The story has some very important moments, such as when Mr. McGinty and the students and teachers release their buttlerflies in the park and talks about monarch migration as the now-strong butterflies fly away. This is an important story line since between 2012 and 2013, there was a 43.7 percent decrease in the area occupied by the butterflies in their winter sanctuaries in central Mexico from North America. The notion that native milkweed (as opposed to tropical milkweed – since there is a difference!) are host plants to the butterfly and the relationship with the monarchs makes Mr. McGinty’s Monarchs a wonderful nature book that also gives children and families steps that they can take to help the butterfly. As I just learned, this text has added to our understanding of how conservationists can help benefit monarchs and also assist in Brooke’s classroom for her very first Project Based Learning teaching method.
About the Author: Linda Vander Heyden has always loved quiet country and woodlands. She was inspired to write Mr. McGinty’s Monarchs after finding milkweed on her road had been mowed and many caterpillars clinging to the dying plants. She hopes her story will inspire others to protect and save these remarkable butterflies. Linda lives in Wisconsin with her husband, two dogs, two cats, and two horses.
About the Illustrator: Eileen Ryan Ewen was born into a family of artists who fostered her love of storytelling through pictures. She earned a BFA in Painting from Miami University (Ohio) and an MFA in Creative writing from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She is also the illustrator of Miss Colfax’s Light (SBP, March 2016). She lives in St. Louis with her family.
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